Gunga Galunga was originally created by drummer Tom “Euge” Goicoechea. Euge occasionally books gigs under his own name (keep an ear to the ground for future incarnations of the “Euge-tet”) with various configurations of sidemen. This configuration convened to play a gig at local jazz sandbox the Camellia Lounge, and experienced such excitement both on the bandstand and in the audience that they decided to continue on as a good old fashioned band, naming the project after a quote from beloved cultural icon Bill Murray. The material performed reflects the circumstances of the band’s creation; the group draws on a mix of old, orphaned songs and fresh, new ideas, all composed by its members. The spontaneous creation and development of the group exemplifies the spirit of PJCE Records and their mission to encourage experimentation and collaboration in the local jazz and creative music scene through their series of monthly releases.
Stylistically speaking, the material performed is even more diverse than the backgrounds of its constituents. “Jackson Hole” and “Rainy Day, Sunny Heart” convey beautifully the sophistication and pop sensibilities of trumpeter / composer Tom Barber. “Starbird” and “Portrait in Tears” are compelling and dark vignettes by tenor man Willie Matheis. “The Black Monk” and “How The Moon Broke” expose guitarist Dan Duval’s interest in extended free improvisation and rich harmonic exploration both in and out of the modern jazz idiom. The most authentic punk rock explosions on the entire disc occur during “The Red C,” by Euge. Bassist Jon Shaw keeps everything on the rails the whole time, no matter what is happening. It’s exactly as engaging and accessible as it sounds. Which, to me anyway, is extremely accessible and engaging. This city is full of amazing jazz talent, and both Gunga Galunga and PJCE Records are creating a home for the music with one hand and pushing it forward with the other.
“The album’s opening cut ‘Rainy Day, Sunny Heart,’ composed by Barber, brings to mind those upbeat jazz numbers you always heard as theme songs to 1970s TV shows and groovy movies. Tenor sax man Willie Matheis wrote the excellent ‘Starbird,’ which features some very nice sophisticated drumming by Goicoechea.” – Portland Tribune
“A quintet featuring trumpeter Thomas Barber (whose large ensemble album Snow Road was a gem from 2011), plus Willie Matheis on tenor sax, Dan Duval on guitar, Jon Shaw on bass, and Tom “Euge” Goicoechea on drums. Part of the Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble series. Music that mixes straight-ahead jazz with some avant-garde and rock tendencies. Inventive and adventurous without sacrificing some wonderful melodic offerings. Find of the Week.” – Dave Sumner, eMusic